There is no question that the Arizona Cardinals lost a lot of talent on defense this offseason, which included five starters.
The team made up for some of the losses in free agency, swapping youth with wisdom.
Antoine Bethea (5-11, 206) will turn 33 in July and was signed to be Jefferson’s replacement.
- 1x SB Champion, 2 SB appearances, 3x Pro Bowler, 13 playoff games
- Career Statistics: 1046 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 19 interceptions, 61 pass defensed, 7 forced fumbles (six seasons with over 100 tackle, 162 regular season starts)
The Cardinals got a player that is not only familiar with Bruce Arians system, but is also pretty good at run defense. That makes for less of a learning curve for the veteran. He is a productive safety in the box, racking up 110 tackles this past season with the 49ers. Though he may be a little slower and not as good in pass coverage as he was before, Bethea remains good in all aspects of the game. He has been healthy for the most part of his 11 seasons in the NFL.
The ageless wonder Karlos Dansby (6-4, 250), will turn 36 in November, has returned to the Arizona Cardinals yet again and is set to replace Kevin Minter.
- 1 SB appearance, Second-team All-Pro (2013), 6 playoff games
- Career Statistics: 1322 tackles, 42 sacks, 19 interceptions, 75 pass defensed, 18 forced fumbles, 6 pick-sixes
The last time he returned to Arizona, he had the best season of his career with 122 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 4 interceptions, 19 pass defensed, 2 pick-sixes, and a forced fumble. All in the regular season. Minter was a one-dimensional linebacker that excelled at run defense where as Dansby can rush the passer, stuff the run, drop back in coverage, and make game changing plays. He is a proven leader and a productive play maker that will benefit Deone Bucannon , Haason Reddick, and everyone around him on the defense.
Jarvis Jones (6-3, 248) was a former first round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers that did not meet expectations but was signed to be depth replacement for the departed Alex Okafor.
- Career Statistics: 129 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 interceptions, 10 pass defensed, 4 forced fumbles
Although he underachieved at Pittsburgh, he had career highs this past seasons in tackles (42) and forced fumbles (2). With him comes his experience in six playoff games. The Cardinals needed a player to fill the void that Okafor’s departure created and they got just that. Okafor is the better pass rusher but Jones is better in pass coverage and is little more athletic. He will be the backup to both Markus Golden and Chandler Jones.
The team drafted Haason Reddick, the versatile speedy linebacker that has the ability to excel in pass coverage and has already proven in college to be a tenacious pass rusher. Budda Baker was the leader of one of the best secondaries in college football and is known for his high football intelligence. Baker fills a big void that Jefferson-Swearinger left behind. Rudy Ford has trained with Peterson before and already has some of the basics down of being an NFL corner.
The Arizona Cardinals learned the hard way in the 2015 NFC Championship game that playoff success and experience was essential, although injuries did hit them hard. The defense collectively was unsuccessful in containing the Carolina Panthers. Majority of the roster was coming off their first ever playoff win of their NFL careers. Now that many of the Cardinals players know how playoff atmosphere as a win or loss feels, they are ready to take the next step and win a championship. Although the Bethea/Dansby are at the twilight of their careers and Reddick/Baker are young, they are proven successful leaders that will lead the potent defense to victory. All defensive veteran additions have a combined total of 25 playoff appearances and know Arians system of defense. Aging Carson Palmer should be better than ever in 2017.
Let the journey to Super Bowl LII begin! Get Larry Fitzgerald that ring!